I saw Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’ many years ago. It isn’t a movie I would recommend, so it’s interesting how one part still stands out in my memory. Clint Eastwood’s character, Will Munny, has been looking for some men who brutalized a woman—to get a bounty I think. He’s been riding with a young man who goes by the name of The Schofield Kid. The Kid does a lot of bragging about how many people he had killed. Finally, they locate two of the men. One of them is in an out house and The Schofield Kid throws open the door and shoots him. I can’t remember if Munny shot the other one.
The Kid admits to Will Munny that this was his first time killing someone. He is feeling remorse instead of elation. This is the part that has stayed with me all these years—the last two lines specifically. I think there is a lesson in them:
The Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don’t seem real… how he ain’t gonna never breathe again, ever… how he’s dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
Will Munny: It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.
Most of us are not guilty of crimes that these men are talking about, so it’s easy to say, “I haven’t done what those people have done. I hope they get what they deserve”. I certainly don’t condone murder or the brutalization of women, and I do believe in justice under the law. But what if we ALL got what we deserved? What if, instead of mercy, we all got what we had coming—the unfiltered, undiluted blast of justice? Who have we hurt intentionally, or unintentionally? Who have we made to suffer? Parents? Teachers? Class mates? Friends? People we have dated? Spouses? Children? Are there things we’ve said that we wish we could take back?
I think back on stupid things I did as a kid where I could have hurt myself, or possibly others, and luck (or the Lord) saved me from tragedy. Punishment never came for those lapses in judgement because no actual damage was done and life moved on. But the poor choices were already made, and consequences weren’t in my control. I nearly wrecked my dad’s truck once because I was going too fast on a dirt road and didn’t see the washed out road ahead. I hit the brakes hard, and the truck slid into the ruts in the road and started bouncing sideways. It finally caught and tipped up high on 2 wheels before it came down safely on all 4. Disaster averted. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt (nobody did back then), so I could easily have been injured. I think there was a passenger with me, and they could have been hurt as well. I would have had to pay for the damage to the truck. I would have lost the trust of my parents. We were shaken up, but no damage was done and we drove away thankful. Nobody else found out so my life wasn’t altered by it. I could have received justice but I got mercy instead.
I’ve said hurtful things to people in the past. I’m pretty sure I haven’t apologized for all of the things I’ve said. I’m not sure if they still remember them, but what if they do? I hope they have forgiven me. Again, I hope I receive mercy rather than justice.
I hope justice isn’t meted out in full measure for all the poor choices I’ve made. I hope there is mercy. I hope I can extend that wish of mercy to others; even people who have hurt me or endangered me in some way. We all have it coming. We all need the mercy and the forgiveness that comes through the atonement of Christ.